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Wed, 2014-02-12 05:00Steve Horn
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Documents Reveal Calvert County Signed Non-Disclosure Agreement with Company Proposing Cove Point LNG Terminal

Co-authored by Steve Horn and Caroline Selle

DeSmogBlog has obtained documents revealing that the government of Calvert County, MD, signed a non-disclosure agreement on August 21, 2012, with Dominion Resources — the company proposing the Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal in Lusby, MD.  The documents have raised concerns about transparency between the local government and its citizens.

The proposal would send gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the Marcellus Shale basin to the global market. The export terminal is opposed by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland Sierra Club and a number of other local environment and community groups.

The Accokeek Mattawoman Piscataway Creeks Council (AMP Council), an environmental group based in Accokeek, MD, obtained the documents under Maryland's Public Information Act and provided them to DeSmogBlog.

Cornell University’s Law School explains a non-disclosure agreement is a “legally binding contract in which a person or business promises to treat specific information as a trade secret and not disclose it to others without proper authorization.”

Upon learning about the agreement, Fred Tutman, CEO of Patuxent Riverkeeper — a group opposed to the LNG project — told DeSmogBlog he believes Calvert County officials are working “in partnership with Dominion to the detriment of citizen transparency.”

We’re unhappy that it does seem to protect Dominion's interest rather than the public interest,” Tutman said. “The secrecy surrounding this deal has made it virtually impossible for anyone exterior to those deals, like citizens, to evaluate whether these are good transactions or bad transactions on their behalf.”

Thu, 2013-11-21 01:14Farron Cousins
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U.S. House Republicans Make It Clear That They Hate Renewable Energy

In Washington, D.C., money can buy power. Whether it comes in the form of lobbyists or direct campaign donations is irrelevant – it seems like every elected representative has a price. The more clever elected officials at least attempt to hide their loyalty to the industries that put them in office, but some seasoned veterans have quit trying altogether.

Such is the case with Republican Representative Doc Hastings from Washington State.  

Hastings has received more than $380,000 in direct campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries, making them his second largest single industry donor. That is apparently the price needed for an industry hack like Hastings to drop all pretenses and be as transparent as possible about where his loyalties lie.

This week, Hastings added an amendment to the deceptively-titled Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act that would effectively cut in half the amount of federal money invested on renewable energy projects on federal lands.

The Hastings Amendment comes just a few months after the Interior Department announced that they would be expanding renewable energy projects on federal lands.  From The Daily Beast:

Mon, 2013-03-25 12:50Farron Cousins
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Dirty Energy Lobby Looking To NRA For Guidance

The Wall Street Journal recently opened up their editorial pages for noted climate change denier David Deming, allowing him to publish a “call to action” for the dirty energy industry.

In his op-ed, Deming says that the fossil fuel industry could learn a thing or two from the NRA about how to become an effective, powerful lobbying force.  Deming believes that the effectiveness of the NRA is due to their ability to stand in solidarity with one another, whereas the fossil fuel industry is operating under a “every man for himself” mentality.

It is worth noting that the Wall Street Journal did not disclose the fact that Deming is a member of conservative think tanks that receive significant funding from the dirty energy industry, including Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil. 

From Deming’s op-ed:

Fossil-energy companies could learn a thing or two from the gun lobby. The gun industry is tiny compared with theirs, yet it is among the most respected and powerful groups that lobby Congress.

After the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, didn't budge an inch. He never agreed to the premise that firearms were inherently evil. Instead, he went on television and suggested that putting armed guards in schools might be an effective way of stopping evil. In other words, he refused to cede the moral high ground.

Deming, who in the past has claimed that the science behind climate change is “pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo,” has presented an argument that is a clear fallacy.  Not only is he misrepresenting the facts, but he has made conclusions that cannot be proven.

Thu, 2013-01-17 06:00Farron Cousins
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National Climate Assessment Delivers Dire Warning On Climate Threat

A draft version of the 2013 National Climate Assessment is making headlines this week, and not because it is so uplifting.  According to the report, the effects of climate change are becoming alarmingly visible throughout America and the rest of the world.

The 1146-page report reads less like a government assessment and more like the Old Testament.  Accounts of hurricanes, droughts, floods, impending famines, and natural disasters of every kind are listed in the report, and all of these occurrences have been directly linked back to climate change.

Wed, 2013-01-09 10:47Farron Cousins
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Dirty Energy Lobby Optimistic About Obama’s Second Term

Despite the years that they have spent attacking President Obama, the dirty energy industry is incredibly optimistic that the White House is going to give the oil and gas industry everything they want in Obama's second term.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said that his group is confident that the Obama administration’s second term will turn into a boom for the natural gas industry.  As we’ve pointed out in the past, Gerard’s vision for America is to have a dirty energy lobbyist strategically placed in every district in the country.

The Hill has the latest from Gerard:

Thu, 2012-10-11 09:24Ben Jervey
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White House Holds Meeting to Address Coal Export Terminals

It was barely two weeks ago that we reported on the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to “fast track” approval of the Morrow Pacific Project, a coal export terminal on the Columbia River that would move over 8 million tons of coal from rail to barge every year.

This Morrow Pacific Project is one of a handful of proposed export terminals that the industry hopes to build to help link coal from the strip mines of the Powder River Basin to overseas markets. As American demand for coal falls, companies (many foreign owned) are scrambling to access the growing Asian markets.

At issue with the export terminals is the process of review and approval, specifically with regard to the environmental impacts. As we wrote about the Morrow Pacific Project, the Army Corps has, at present, the final word in determining whether or not a terminal can be built. This is due primarily to the “dredge and fill” rules established in section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and the origin of Army Corps decisionmaking harkens all the way back to the Rivers and Harbons Appropriation Act of 1899.

Here’s the problem: in determining whether or not to approve a new facility such as a coal transfer terminal, the Army Corps is only compelled legally to look at the immediate environmental impacts at the site itself. These site-specific reviews wouldn’t take into account any broader of cumulative impacts, like, say, the impacts of coal dust along the route of the rail or barge traffic, nor the even broader and inevitable impacts of the coal’s combustion on mercury pollution and global climate disruption.

Wed, 2012-05-02 10:04Steve Horn
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ALEC Wasn't First Industry Trojan Horse Behind Fracking Disclosure Bill - Enter Council of State Governments

19th Century German statesman Otto von Bismarck once said, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), put on the map by the Center for Media and Democracy in its “ALEC Exposed” project, is the archetype of von Bismarck's truism. So too are the fracking chemical disclosure bills that have passed and are currently being pushed for in statehouses nationwide.

State-level fracking chemical disclosure bills have been called a key piece of reform in the push to hold the unconventional gas industry accountable for its actions. The reality, though, is murkier.

On April 21, The New York Times penned an investigation making that clear. The Times wrote:

Last December, ALEC adopted model legislation, based on a Texas law, addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The ALEC legislation, which has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states, has been promoted as a victory for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants.

A close reading of the bill, however, reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets. Most telling, perhaps, the bill was sponsored within ALEC by ExxonMobil, one of the largest practitioners of fracking — something not explained when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.

The Texas law The Times refers to is HB 3328, passed in June 2011 in a 137-8 roll call vote, while its Senate companion bill passed on a 31-0 unanimous roll call vote. Since then, variations of the model bill have passed in two other key states in which fracking is occuring.

Like dominos falling in quick succession over the following months, ColoradoPennsylvania and, most recently, the Illinois Senate passed bills based on the ALEC model. Louisiana also has introduced a similar bill. 

Wed, 2012-02-08 12:28Farron Cousins
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The Business of Risk – Insuring Against Climate Change

When it comes to assessing risk, the insurance industry is one of the leaders in the field. Whether it is health insurance, car insurance, or homeowner’s insurance, the industry is forced to analyze every possible scenario for a given person or structure, and impose a fee based on the likelihood of events for the situation. So when an entire industry that bases their profitability on reducing risk starts factoring climate change into their equations, it's probably a good idea to pay attention.

Earlier this month, insurance commissioners in three separate U.S. states began mandating that insurance providers include the risk of climate change disasters in their risk equations, and develop and disclose their plans to deal with climate-related catastrophes. These plans will be laid out in surveys that insurance companies will provide to insurance commissioners in their respective states.

The three states that have made these new rules are California, New York, and Washington State. Previously, many states had only required the largest insurance companies to have climate plans, but the new rules, which could spread across the United States to climate change-vulnerable places like Florida and Texas, require all insurers to adjust for climate change disasters.

The New York Times lays out why the industry is taking on climate change issues:

Tue, 2012-01-24 15:11Farron Cousins
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Another Industry Talking Point Laid To Rest: Oil Production Soars But Gas Prices Remain High

It is hard to believe that it's been almost four years since Americans were bombarded by the cry of “Drill baby, drill” that echoed throughout the halls of the Republican National Convention in 2008. That slogan became a rallying cry for conservatives who believed that increasing oil drilling – in spite of the environmental costs – would lead to an economic boom in the United States, and would also help ease prices at the pump for American consumers.

So today, nearly four years after those words were uttered to millions of conservatives, we have domestic oil production reaching a 24-year high, according to new reports. By industry and conservative logic, this should also mean that economic productivity has risen while consumer gasoline prices have fallen. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It turns out that increased oil production has nothing to do with the prices Americans pay at the pump. While industry leaders point to increased production in 2008 that was followed by lower prices, experts counter that the drop in price was due to simple market fluctuations: specifically, a drop in demand due to the global recession.

People travelled less and therefore didn’t use as much gasoline, creating a surplus that companies had to expel by lowering prices. These same experts also say that a rise in renewable energy use contributed to lower fossil fuel prices during this time period.

Mon, 2009-06-01 14:36Jeremy Jacquot
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Denier Conference Readies for Round Three

Among the many conservative think tanks faithfully pushing the skeptic message in Washington, D.C., few are as prominent—or, should I say, infamous—as the Heartland Institute. The “independent” research and non-profit group has the dubious distinction of having organized the first major denier-palooza, the “International Conference on Climate Change,” last year. Despite a less than stellar showing, and an even more lukewarm follow-up in March, it’s hoping that the third time will be the charm.

The likes of Senator James Inhofe, Lord Christopher Monckton and Anthony Watts will be descending on the Washington Court Hotel this week to discuss the “widespread dissent to the asserted “consensus” on the causes, consequences, and proper responses to climate change.” Its ostensible purpose will be to “expose Congressional staff and journalists to leading scientists and economists in the nation’s capital” and demonstrate that “global warming is not a crisis and that immediate action to reduce emissions is not necessary”—which it calls the emerging consensus view of (the handful of) scientists outside the IPCC.

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